The White House said that President Obama is poised to act decisively if al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula starts “plotting” against the United States.
Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told CNN yesterday that “we’ve had a very active effort for several years now to disrupt the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, AQAP, that has involved U.S. airstrikes, direct action through drones and other means, and we’ve made very clear that we will continue to do what is necessary to disrupt AQAP.”
“Now, this conflict that has been ongoing inside the country has been more about its internal political situation and the Houthi rebels who’ve been advancing inside of Yemen,” Rhodes said. “But at the same time, we’re going to keep a very close eye on AQAP. And the president’s made clear that he’s not going to stand idly by. He’ll take action as necessary if we see plotting against the United States.”
Not only does AQAP publish Inspire magazine, which plots against the U.S. and gave Boston bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev the tech tips for building their pressure-cooker explosive devices, but the head of AQAP, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, is the general manager for “core” al-Qaeda, meaning he can call al-Qaeda attacks anywhere, anytime.
In a video released a year ago, Wuhayshi told fighters, “We must eliminate the cross. … The bearer of the cross is America!”
State Department press secretary Jen Psaki said of AQAP in 2013, “The fact that they continue to pose a serious threat to the United States and its interests, we consider this to be one of the foremost national security challenges we face.”
In December, American hostage Luke Somers was killed by AQAP during a rescue attempt. Obama said then that “terrorists who seek to harm our citizens will feel the long arm of American justice.”
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said today on a visit to Japan that “of course AQAP is a group that we’re very concerned with as the United States because in addition to having other regional ambitions and ambitions within Yemen, we all know that AQAP has the ambition to strike Western targets, including the United States.”
“And that’s why we’ve long conducted counterterrorism operations against AQAP in Yemen,” Carter said. “…The terrorism threat to the West, including the United States, from AQAP is a longstanding and serious one.”